Manouso Manos and Me Too

Manouso, as usual, taught a brilliant class today. I continue to be amazed at his ability to inspire and challenge me on a daily basis five days a week for well over a year. My middle back especially thanks him today as I slump over my laptop writing this blog.

I’ve noticed an uptick on this blog’s traffic and so I will recap the events that brought us to the brilliant online sequence Manouso taught today. Thank you to all who read this.

In 2018, a CIYT complained that she had been groped by Manouso in a public yoga class in 2013, in which I happened to be a participant. This woman threatened in her original complaint that she would take her story to the media and she made good on that threat. Radio station KQED did a story on her which cast IYNAUS in a not so flattering light. IYNAUS, led by a president who happened to be a white male attorney and a student of the teacher with certification one level below Manouso, took action and sent an email to all its members requesting anonymous complaints against Manouso over a span of 30 years. For decades Manouso has been one of two teachers in the world who holds the highest certificate ever awarded by BKS Iyengar. His teaching was and still is legendary. IYNAUS hired an “independent investigator” who happened to be a black female with a long history of sexual assault prosecutions and no knowledge of yoga. Social media went wild with inflammatory and libelous accusations against Manouso. One of the most vocal was a woman who hung out in Manouso’s studio like it was her living room. Manouso had helped her recover from an addiction and yoga replaced that addiction. She began subbing at Manouso’s studio and spending a lot of time there. Manouso allowed it because it kept her away from her addictions but she crossed the line too many times and eventually he took away her key to his studio after she posted a picture of him teaching a public class on facebook without his permission and helped herself to items from the lost and found. Manouso also caught her stealing money from him. This woman (crystal dildo girl) showed up in the “independent investigator’s” report. She said her boyfriend witnessed Manouso’s foot on her labia and her boyfriend denies it ever happened though he never was interviewed. The “independent investigator” substantiated her story along with the original complaint and two other complaints. I reviewed this in another post but in case you forgot: Out of teaching close to 400,000 students over a span of 30 years the report came up with the 6 complaints. You may read the entire report on the IYNAUS website. IYNAUS said it would stay posted for 15 days and it has been up for nearly three years as of this writing. TRIGGER WARNING: the word labia is used A LOT.

The interviews of claims of sexual harassment made against Manouso was one-sided and designed to find guilt rather than to independently investigate claims in an impartial manner. Every exculpatory bit of evidence was not considered, such as interviewing witnesses who are noted in the report as witnessing an assault or just a basic background check of the accusers. It would have been relatively easy to establish the personal vendetta that one of his accusers had against Manouso.

We live in a free country, a democracy guided by rules and laws. In a democracy, a person being accused learns the identity of their accuser(s); has the opportunity to question their claims; to explain their ‘side’ of the story, to tell their truth and to have their day in court. Manouso was not given this opportunity. Admitting to a simple adjustment such as a pat to the inner thigh in ardha chandrasana could land him in jail depending on the state in which the adjustment occurred.

Yoga facebook groups went wild comparing Manouso to Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. These men have raped women. In recent #METOO cases that have reached the courts, the accused allegedly made unwanted advances of a sexual nature which included requests for private meetings, luring women to private meeting places under the pretext of business, and making outright demands for sexual acts and or rape.

The accusations against Manouso are materially different. All cases in the report allege instances of inappropriate touching occurred during yoga classes with multiple students and or the entire class watching. Never once did a student receiving the instruction complain that the touch felt inappropriate nor did she ask Manouso to stop. In addition, never once did an observer speak up to say they were offended by watching the adjustment. All adjustments were public, all occured in the context of a yoga class, and all were observed by bystanders, including Iyengar Yoga senior teachers. No one took exception; no one asked Manouso to stop. In many cases, observing teachers had seen and experienced the same adjustments year after year and gave similar adjustments to their students. Decade after decade, nobody questioned the appropriateness of Manouso’s touch. And, all the adjustments in question were taught to Manouso by Iyengar. Moreover, the report contained no evidence that Manouso ever used his position to intimidate or prevent another teacher from advancing.

The reference that Manouso is guilty is not consistent with any legal finding. Manouso has denied and continues to deny all the charges.

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